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Captain Cook powers his way to another unbeaten ton; India lead down to just 100

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alastair_cook_battingThe England top order made merry on a flat surface at the Eden Gardens and piled on the runs on the 2nd day of the 3rd test in Kolkata. Three wickets away from wrapping up a below par first innings from India, the English bowlers knocked over the hosts for 316 an hour into the day after a counter attacking 52 from Indian captain MS Dhoni had pushed the total past 300.

The England openers Alastair Cook and Nick Compton in reply, looked in no trouble whatsoever in their massive 165 run opening stand owing to which England finished on a commanding 214/1 on day 2, just 100 runs adrift from India's first innings score. Cook meanwhile made use of a dropped chance from Cheteshwar Pujara at slip to make another terrific century, one that put him at the top of the pile of elite English batsmen.

India's overnight batsmen, MS Dhoni and Zaheer Khan were looking to get their team past the psychological 300 run mark with the 3 wickets remaining. Dhoni adopted the usual tactic of farming the strike for the first 4 balls off the over before looking to chance his arm with the last 2 balls. They ploy paid off as the duo put on a useful 19 runs in the first 4 overs of the day before Monty Panesar broke through for the visitors. The left arm spinner trapped Zaheer (6) plumb in front with an arm ball and doubled his return a couple of balls later, bowling Ishant Sharma(0) with a full delivery that crashed into the stumps.

At 296/9 Dhoni decided to open up against the spinner. The Indian captain struck Monty for two huge sixes over long off and long on to bring up India's 300. No.11 Pragyan Ojha was a thorn in the flesh of the English, applying himself very well at the other and offering a strong defence. The last wicket pair put on a useful 20 runs before Dhoni's entertaining innings of 52 was brought to an end through a brute of a delivery from Steve Finn, who got a short one to rear up on the batsman and managed to find the edge. The ball looped up in the region of slip where Graeme Swann took a smart catch.

At drinks in the first session on day 2, India were bowled out for 316, a score which was well below par batting first on this surface.

The English openers Alastair Cook and Nick Compton got off to a solid start before lunch. Both batsmen were prepared to bide their time against the new ball. India's new ball bowlers Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma were accurate in their spells before lunch but couldn't get much out of a flat deck at the Eden Gardens.

They did manage to keep the runs down though as England only managed 22/0 in 11 overs going into lunch. Sharma, making his comeback after 11 months was tidy in his 5 over spell, probing away around the off stump.

The Indian quicks Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan started off well after Lunch. Zaheer induced a thick outside edge off the bat of Cook in the 4th over after the break but Cheteshwar Pujara put down a regulation chance at first slip to the give the England captain a big let off. It proved to be a very costly miss as Cook went on to torment the Indian attack.

The English openers were determined to make the most of the start and managed to fight their way through a tough spell from Khan and Sharma. The Indian spinners Ravi Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha were brought on to back up the seamers but weren't effective before Tea.

Cook and Compton were able to deal with the minimum turn on offer on a flat pitch and got good value for their shots on the lightening fast Eden Gardens outfield. Cook picked up the pace of the innings too, launching into Ashwin with a big six over his head and punishing anything slightly loose from the Indian bowlers.

Compton was his usual self, playing the support role to perfection, and working within his limitations while being strong in defence. Cook got to 50 and pushed on further with consummate ease to became the highest run getter in this series. At Tea, the England openers were grinding the Indian attack and got the score up to 121/0, trailing India by just 195 runs.

The session after tea like the rest of the day before it belonged firmly to the visitors. The English openers drove home the advantage after Tea. Dhoni brought spin on at one end and pace at the other but nothing seemed to faze either Cook or Compton. Cook moved seamlessly to another 100 in the series, the 23rd of his Career to become the highest century getter in test cricket for the Poms. On a wicket that had nothing in it for the Indian bowlers he carried on mercilessly past the hundred mark too. Compton, having reached his fifty got a bit too casual with a paddle sweep off a straight ball from Ojha and was adjudged lbw for 58 even though he seemed to have got some bat on the ball.

That wicket was the only cheerful action for the Indians on the field as even the out of form Jonathan Trott managed to get his eye in coming in at no.3 on a flat surface.

The Indian pacers too didn't get too much reverse swing in the air towards the end of the day and couldn't make an impact. England as a result surged ahead in the test match going into stumps on day 2 at 216/1 thanks to a 5th consecutive hundred as captain, in as many tests by Alastair Cook (136*). Trott was keeping his captain company on 21* not out while England are now just 100 runs behind India with 3 days to play.

Another day dominated by England means that the Indians are in deep waters in this test and should hope for a miracle from now to try and get something from it. England meanwhile will be mighty pleased with the kind of cricket they played so far this series and will be looking to keep the hosts under pressure for the rest of the test match.


India : G Gambhir, V Sehwag, C Pujara, S Tendulkar, V Kohli, Y Singh, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, I Sharma, Z Khan, P Ojha

England : A Cook, N Compton, J Trott, K Pietersen, I Bell, S Patel, M Prior, G Swann, J Anderson, M Panesar, S Finn

Mini Scorecard:

India 1st innings 316 all out (105 overs, 3.03 rpo)
S Tendulkar 76(155) M Panesar 4/90
G Gambhir 60(124)  J Anderson 3/89

England 1st innings 216/1 (73 overs, 2.95 rpo)
A Cook 136*(236) P Ojha 1/65
N Compton 58(137)

File Photograph CopyrightHarrias